Howard: Five Was Enough For Fallout 3 DLC

"I think we've put enough content out there for this game," Fallout 3's Todd Howard told Kotaku in Dallas last week, having finished offering gamers an unprecedented amount of content fot a single-player game.

The August release of the fifth downloadable mission-pack for Fallout 3 wrapped up a hefty mid-year helping of new content for one of the most acclaimed games of last year.

The game's executive producer, Todd Howard of Bethesda Softworks, told me last week in Dallas at QuakeCon that he's happy with the roll-out. "We knew we wanted to do three initially and we'll see where that goes," he said. " I kind of had in my mind that the upper limit was five. Part of that was what I think people are willing to continue to pay for a game. And a lot of that is our own internal bandwidth."

With the launch of Mothership Zeta, Bethesda's met Howard's goal. Five game-expanding pieces of content, each granting players about four hour' worth of game time for $10, are now out on the Xbox 360 and PC. The packs are planned for a PlayStation 3 release this next month, with, according to Howard, about one new one per week, starting with the game's end-changing and level-cap-raising Broken Steel.

The DLC packs began development as work on Fallout 3 wrapped last year, about two months' prior to the game's late October shipping date. Howard recalled that he had two groups out of his 90-person development team working in parallel on the first two expansions, Operation Anchorage and The Pitt. "About half the team goes on to the next big game," he said, making no attempt to hint at what their next project will be. "The other half, which is mostly a lot of artists and designers go on to DLC stuff."

The creation of the DLC is the fun part, Howard said as the designers are freed from having to wrestle with technology and have fun. That liberation produced the early suggestions to throw aliens in, but Howard delayed that desire until Mothership Zeta. "That one kept coming up: 'We should do alien abduction, we should do alien abduction.' I thought it was hilarious, and I said, 'We should wait. That isn't like the classic Fallout. You kind of want to keep the footprint of aliens in Fallout small.'

"But once we got to the fifth one, it's like: It's really funny. It's a cool concept. We should do it.' And the reason I like it is I do like the DLC to feel like something new. And that one, just on the surface, is instantly: this is different. It's not more of the same, I'm out in the wasteland."

Howard called out Point Lookout, the fourth DLC, as one of his favorites, referring to it as "one of the biggest and best DLCs." That one, which brings the player to a spooky new island to have an adventure that plays as a microcosm of the original game was developed by Joel Burgess, lead level designer of Fallout 3 and Nate Purkeypile, one of the game's artists. "We knew we were going to do a fourth DLC, I said to them: 'I think you guys should do this,'" Come up with some ideas and pitch us. And that's what they did. That was on the case that, on a bigger game, they wouldn't have gotten that opportunity."

The single design directive for Point Lookout, Howard said, came from something he thought the first DLC releases lacked. "It it felt like the other DLCs didn't do what the game does best, which is give me a wide-open area to explore. So let's do a DLC that gives you that in a new way."

The DLC's now done, all available for PC and 360 users and soon playable on the PS3. Bethesda's moving on. Five got the job done.

The next announced Fallout project is Fallout: New Vegas, currently in development at Obsidian Entertainment.